Joined-up Data Standards

The Joined-up Data Standards project, implemented in partnership with Publish What You Fund and supported by the Omidyar Network, explores how data published to competing standards can be made usable, and how development data standards can be designed, improved and governed to enable greater interoperability. The aim is to support the use of data to improve decision-making and accountability.

Joining up data standards is important because it allows users to unlock the immense potential of data to help drive poverty eradication and sustainable development. In recent years, more and more valuable data has become available, but much of it can’t be turned into useful information because it is being published in different formats, to different standards or on different platforms.

With our partners Publish What You Fund, we worked to improve how standard-setting bodies, data producers and data users collaborate to make their data interoperable and easily comparable with other data. We did this by exploring challenges to development data interoperability, the ways in which data could be joined up, and by bringing stakeholders together to find solutions to common problems.

Our work

We published a number of discussion papers that highlight problems caused by incompatible standards. We also developed an online navigator that provides mapping between commonly used global data standards.

In 2017 we published the project’s summary report: The frontiers of data interoperability for sustainable development.

Based on research and learning generated by the JUDS project team, as well as input from interviews with key stakeholders, the report identified five ‘frontiers’ for data interoperability policy:

  • Consolidating existing principles. It’s now less a question of if the many and multi agenda principles relating to interoperability will be harmonised, but when.
  • Moving beyond exposing problems and towards solving them through better availability of guidance, tools and approaches generated by an increasing number of data initiatives.
  • Turning big ideas into practical solutions. This is starting to happen at an international and national level. Efforts such as unlocking the benefits of big data for development should be scaled up.
  • Producing global standards and regulations that work for all to meet challenges such as the need for disaggregated data while maintaining privacy.
  • Creating new adaptable partnerships and building bridges between key actors in national and international data communities.

The report also recognises the critical cross-sector coordination role to be played by the Interoperability Data Collaborative. The collaborative is a multi-stakeholder initiative jointly led by the United Nations Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. It was a key outcome of the first UN World Data Forum (UNWDF) in 2017.

We continue our commitment to advancing data interoperability, as a key policy concern in the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, as well as supporting practitioners to join up the data they need in their work. We encourage you to get in touch if you are interested in collaborating on future work in this area.